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May 12, 2023

Kosi Revaya: My Cup is Overflowing

This transcript was edited and formatted by a third party and may vary from the live sermon delivered at Shabbat.

"Kosi Revaya: My Cup is Overflowing"
Behar/Bechukotai 5783 (Farewell Sermon)
Rabbi Nicole Auerbach

This week, our Torah portion is filled with blessings and curses. These are in large part what we’ve come to expect from the text: They concern the fertility of crops and of people and victory over our enemies or vice versa. Since most of us are neither farmers nor soldiers, it can be tempting to flip through these rather quickly. But this week, one curse stopped me in my tracks: “Though you shall eat, you shall not be satisfied.”[1]

Oof. That one hits home. Because living in the society we do, where we are constantly pushing ourselves to be more, to do more, to have more, we know this feeling. The curse isn’t that there won’t be enough– it’s that even when there is enough, we will never be content. The curse is dissatisfaction itself.

So how do we avoid this fate? One possible answer comes in the law which immediately precede the litany of blessings and curses, the law of the shmita, or sabbatical, year. Every seven years, God says we are to refrain from working the land. Just as every seven days we pause our work to enjoy the rest of Shabbat, every seven years, we are to stop planting and reaping and allow the land a chance to rest and renew. Once every seven years, we must stop, and allow ourselves to be sustained by what we already have. Otherwise, we will be doomed to live in an endless cycle of grasping and striving. 

What would it feel like to be released from this feeling of scarcity? We catch a glimpse in the words of Psalm 23:

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many long years. 

Kosi revaya, it says. My cup overflows. I am blessed with abundance. This text, too, hints at a connection between rest and satisfaction. Goodness and steadfast love are always pursuing us. We just have to pause for long enough to allow them to catch up.

This week, even the scroll itself is urging us to pause. If you look at the Torah, you will find that after Leviticus ends, and before Numbers begins, there is a large blank space. A fallow field left within the text, reminding us to appreciate the conclusion of one sacred chapter before launching into the next.

And so, here I am, in my seventh year at Central. Acknowledging that for now, my work here is done. Forcing myself to pause and allow the love and blessings to catch up with me.

Kosi revaya. My cup, and my heart, is overflowing.

Last week, I had a chance to catch up with some of our CORE Group leaders. It was so fun to hear about all of the experiences they’re having with their groups—movie discussions and museum outings, grappling with issues of racial justice, and even pickleball! But what filled my heart was hearing that outside of their meetings, they’re caring for each other, attending each other’s weddings, shivas. One leader said that when she was in an accident, her group members reached out to support her, and because she trusted them, she allowed herself to say yes. This is my dream come true. Kosi revaya.

Tomorrow, I will lead my last Mishkan service, a service that I helped build with many of you. The Mishkan is a warm, intimate, participatory community of prayer and learning, and it is my favorite place to pray. And like the portable desert sanctuary for which it is named, this sacred space is only possible because of the gifts you bring. It is because our members show up fully, ready to contribute their personal Torah, that it has become a place where God can dwell with us.

I can’t possibly talk about all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had as a member of the Clergy team. I’ve gotten to create new forms of Judaica, and advocate for justice. I’ve gotten to teach and preach, and meditate, and travel. You have invited me into your lives in times of joy and sorrow. You have shared your stories and trusted me with your hearts. It has been the honor of my lifetime to be your rabbi.

There are too many people to thank here. But if you’ll indulge me, I do want to express my deep gratitude to my mentors and colleagues. Rabbi Buchdahl, you gave me the greatest gift: your trust. Before I had any idea what I was doing, you trusted me. This gave me the courage to try, knowing you would have my back no matter what. And almost always, when I came to you and said, “I have a crazy idea,” you told me to go for it. You lead not from a place of fear, but with faith in life’s abundance. Kosi revaya.

Rabbi Lorge, you were my first mentor here. Your wisdom and compassion have served as a model for me of what it is to serve a community. Thank you, my friend. I am also grateful to the rest of our Clergy team, who have been my teachers and friends. It’s been a joy being in sacred cahoots with you.

I owe a debt as well to our board, who have empowered me to experiment and asked me the tough questions, as well as our executive director, Marcia Caban, whose ability to keep her eyes on the horizon keeps this big ship pointed in the right direction.

I would not be able to leave if I were not confident that the work I care so deeply about is in the very best of hands. Rabbi Sarah Berman, you have illuminated for me the many paths into our tradition. Rabbi Hilly Haber, you exemplify the idea that justice is what love looks like in public.[2] Rabbi Andrew Kaplan Mandel, your vision of how we can build a worldwide community of compassion, learning, and practice is a continuing source of inspiration for me. And I am quite aware that none of what I get credit for around here would be possible without the hard work and dedication of my team, Carolyn Roesler, Rachel Kaplan, Marina Nebro, and Rachel La Quercia.

Anyone who has learned with me knows I love to end by finding a blessing that arises from our discussion of the text. And so, as I close this chapter in my learning from you and prepare to walk into the blank space that awaits before my next challenge, I offer this blessing:

God of our ancestors, who spoke the world into being and brought us to this moment, please bless the work of our hands, so that we may together make your love, compassion, and justice manifest in this world. And let us also remember to pause. Every seven days, or every seven years, or every seven seconds, remind us to put down our work, and look around. To remember that we are always already blessed beyond measure. To allow our blessings to overflow and catch up with us. And to know that we will find you there, in the pause. In the breath. In the wide-open spaces. And in the fallow times when the seeds that will emerge are not yet visible, grant us faith in abundance, and possibility, and most of all, in one another.


[1] Leviticus 26:26


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